InternationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 03

Kashmir: why this lukewarm world response?

Pakistan took the burning Kashmir issue to the UN Security Council (UNSC). It took a decision to take up the conflict for debate in a closed-door session, for the first time in the last 50 years, which was very encouraging. It wouldn’t be inappropriate to say that it was a significant triumph for Pakistan, and a serious discomfiture for India which tried its level best and put all its resources into play to stop the meeting from taking place.

As reported in the national and international media, the UNSC said Kashmir was a global dispute and emphasized that it would be addressed in line with the UN Charter and UN Security Council (UNSC) resolutions in a peaceful manner. The statement lucidly said that Kashmir was not an internal matter of India. It, in fact, was a matter of world peace and security which had come under discussion within the UN ambit after 1965. The UN Secretary General’s statement wherein he expressed grave concern over the situation in occupied Kashmir is of immense importance in this context. The Secretary General, as reported, also invited reference to the Simla treaty arrived at between Pakistan and India. He, it is said, also made a reference to the presence of the UN observers in the disputed territory for long, who have been consistently reporting LoC violations.

Despite it, the fact remains that, except China, major countries of the world resorted to usual diplomatic parlance vis-à-vis the prevalent horrendous situation in Indian occupied Kashmir (IoK). China, because of its longstanding and venerable relations with Pakistan and traditionally abysmal relations with ever-belligerent India came out vociferously on the issue and strongly supported Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir. China outspokenly said that India should avoid “unilateral actions” in Jammu and Kashmir to avoid escalation of tension in the region. Expressing its indignation, China also lucidly said New Delhi’s decision to restructure Ladakh, a union territory, is “unacceptable.”

In view of the situation, it wouldn’t be inappropriate to conclude that global reaction to the somber Kashmir situation has largely been non-critical of India. In this context, the response of the Islamic world merits particular mention. To appreciate why has the response of the Islamic countries towards the Kashmir imbroglio been so lukewarm, we would need to examine the reasons behind it. Primarily, strong economic ties of the Arab and other Islamic countries of the world with India is what compelled them to abstain from supporting Pakistan’s stand on the rapidly degenerating Kashmir situation.

According a research report recently published in a leading English language daily of the country, the volume of trade between India and the Muslim countries is about $100 billion. If that is true, one shouldn’t be flabbergasted at all if the response of the Arab countries, which reportedly accommodate some seven million Indian workers, has not been as vociferous on the Kashmir issue as it should have been. Contrary to India’s strong economic bond with the Islamic world, Pakistan’s total bilateral trade with the Islamic countries is considerably less. As reported, Pakistan’s total bilateral trade with the Islamic countries between 2007 and 2009 had amounted to $44.262 billion, and has not grown much since then.

Turkey’s trade volume with India rests at around $7 billion. On the contrary, Pakistan’s total bilateral trade with Turkey was barely $596.08 million for the year 2017. The bilateral trade between India and Saudi Arabia has been far greater. It is said that the Indo-Saudi bilateral trade shot up to US $27.48 billion in financial year 2017–18, from US $25.1 billion in the previous year. On the other hand, the two-way trade volume between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia is just US$ 3.6 billion, a vast difference indeed.

Pakistan’s total bilateral trade with Malaysia was just over $1.27 billion in 2017, while India’s bilateral trade with it was appreciably large. How good is Pakistan’s trade relations with neigbouring Iran can be gauged from the report of the Financial Tribune (FT) published on August 26, 2019. According to the report trade between Pakistan and Iran is at the lowest ebb, as Pakistan’s exports alarmingly plunged to $318 million in 2015-16 from $1.32 billion in 2008-09. Pakistan’s imports from Iran stand at about $280 million, according a senior Pakistani official at Economic Affairs Division. On the contrary, Iran, which is the immediate neighboring country, has the trade volume of $18 billion with India even in the presence of US sanctions.

What makes things more disappointing for Pakistan is that the Gulf countries such as Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman did not appear to have issued any statements on the crisis. The United Arab Emirates (UAE), in fact, went a step further by ostensibly siding with India, terming India’s ruling to downgrade the special status of Indian occupied Kashmir (IOK) as its internal matter. The UAE’s feeble response to the Kashmir catastrophe is not without reason. It is an established fact that the Gulf Arab states are home to more than seven million Indian expats. They contribute significantly towards the growth of the region’s economy and keep its cities swarming with all categories of workers like doctors, engineers, educators, construction workers and a variety of other laborers. Nowhere in the region is this relationship more conspicuous than in the UAE. More importantly, the UAE’s trade relationship with India is also a notable factor that compelled the member Islamic countries to refrain from taking a bold stance and go all out to support Pakistan. According to information published in the media, bilateral trade between India and the UAE surpassed $50 billion in 2018, thus making India the second largest trade partner of the country.

Having taken stock of the response of the United Nations and the countries representing the Islamic world, the question that arises is: What should Pakistan then do to effectively deal with the ghastly Kashmir conundrum and win unrivalled support of the international community, including countries belonging to the Islamic world, for resolution of the Kashmir problem forthwith?

Pakistan must launch a very strong and sustained diplomatic offensive to convince the international community, international human rights organizations, and its friends in the Islamic world that the Kashmir issue has grown out of proportion. India is ruthlessly killing innocent men, women and children in the occupied valley. It is planning to annihilate the people of occupied Kashmir to attain its ulterior motives. The people of occupied Kashmir are being held incommunicado in total defiance of international law and rights to freedom of speech and communication. The civilized world in general and the powers that be in particular must be made to realize that time is running out fast vis-à-vis the Kashmir imbroglio. They must be made to appreciate that this grave problem has every potential to acquire devastating dimensions, if not dealt with on a war-footing.

The two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan, are now on a confrontational mode, which is extremely dangerous. The recent dastardly statement of Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh that India’s policy on using nuclear weapons may change in future, depending on circumstances, and that India’s ‘No First Use’ nuclear policy may not hold for long is highly irresponsible and makes the situation more vulnerable to a catastrophic nuclear war between the two nuclear powers of the region. The government of Pakistan has termed the statement of Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh a grave threat to world peace. It has cautioned the world community about the magnitude of the impending threat and urged it to take immediate cognizance of the serious state of affairs vis-à-vis Kashmir. How seriously and responsibly the world reacts to Pakistan’s concerns remains to be seen in the days and weeks to come.